Sunday, July 31, 2011

Week in the Life 2011: Saturday

I got up late and was greeted by a sunny morning.  Maude found a sunny patch to sit and ponder the big blue exercise ball that she is for some reason afraid of.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Week in the Life 2011: Friday

bowl of cereal eaten
I can still see my feet, from the right angle.
checked the mail
The car seat has been installed since last Friday, just in case.
 tempted by all the beautiful, but expensive choices at West Seattle Fabric Company
introduced to Bakugan!
played with lincoln logs
ate sugar snap peas fresh off the vine
gave a girl a pretty dress I made
ate a picnic lunch of sorts
hung out at the beach with friends and their babies
played in the sand
delayed by the Montlake bridge
rock star parking in Capitol Hill!
Strictly Seattle 2011 performance
It was sold out!
a friend takes the spotlight - and rocks it out!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Week in the Life 2011: Thursday

I'm a few days late, but my friend Liz shared her photos for a project called "Week in the Life" and I decided to join in.  I thought it would be a great way to commemorate this last month of our life before it will change in a big way with the arrival of Baby Nam.  Here's the breakdown of my first day on the project.  More photos of today are in my flickr set.  What did you do today?  Let me know if you're doing the project too - I'd love to see your week in photos!

my first stop in the morning
I'm still in love with my new sink and vanity.  I put together the vanity and my husband did the rest of the work, including plumbing and tiling.  It's nice to have storage - which wasn't available with our old cast iron pedestal sink.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Taking a moment to look back...

2011: This evening I sit in our rocking chair with the cat next to me, resting my swollen feet on an exercise ball.  
2010: This time last year, we were spending our last day in sweltering hot Seoul.  After 20 days in Asia, first the Philippines and then Seoul, we headed home that day to Seattle.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Baby bump retrospective

Week 20: My first baby bump picture wasn't taken until Monday, April 4th, the 5th month of my pregnancy.  This was the first day of project week.  A week in which my co-worker and I led a group of middle schoolers on exploratory day trips around Seattle.  I now have even more admiration for my co-worker as she was about a week from her due date that week and walked around the city for several hours a day.  I don't know how she did it!  At this point, I was still able to wear all my regular clothes with a belly band.  Even now I can wear some of the shirts I bought at Anthropologie (like the Ella Moss one below).  Probably because I have a weakness for empire waist style tops.  Also, because I'm so short (5 feet), they were too long for my torso to begin with which meant there was plenty of space for an expanding belly.  My husband was not always around when I thought of taking a photo, so this one was taken in our bedroom's closet mirror.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nursery: Part 2

One of my favorite parts of the nursery is the wall of family photos above the changing table.  The silver frames were a housewarming gift our friends got us from Crate and Barrel and the birch frames are from Ikea.  I used Snapfish to print out copies of old family photos that my husband and I had digital copies of from scanning our parent's and grandparent's old photographs.  It took me awhile to settle on what photos to print out, and I printed out some extras in the different sizes just in case I changed my mind.  There are baby photos of my husband and I, as well as photos of our parents, grandparents, and siblings.  The bins underneath the changing pad, contain the things the baby will need most (I think).  There are newborn sized onesies, sleeping gowns, pajamas, and side-snap tees.  The bigger bins contain my growing stash of cloth diapers, towels, and washcloths.  I am still unsure where other things needed during diaper changes will go, but I'm hoping I can squeeze them on the shelves below in easy reach.

Monday, July 25, 2011

baby toys from all over the world

baby toys from all over the world, originally uploaded by supafly.

go to my flickr site to see where they all came from

Nursery: Part 1

I've been working on the nursery for a few months now.  Just when I thought it was coming together, my husband decided it was time to add three more electrical outlets to the room (as there was only one).  He just finished this evening and I am just getting it back in order.  I started with the large IKEA bookshelf that is the main storage component in the room.  This particular shelf was bought more than 10 years ago, and has moved with me from at least 6 or 7 different apartments until it ended up in our first house.  There is a closet, but it's small and awkwardly shaped, and I figured that open shelves with bins were more suitable for tiny baby clothes.  I found the bins pictured below at IKEA as well, but more recently.  It was in the kid's section and seems to be a good size for onesies, booties, hats, bibs, etc...  I had a difficult time remembering what was in which bin, so I made little felt "labels" the I sewed onto the front reminding me what's in each bin.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Finance: How Smart Phones can help

As a teacher, I get inundated with gift cards that I have a hard time keeping track of.  Luckily, there are some smart phone apps that can help with that as well as with saving money:

1.  Starbucks Mobile Card App: This application will allow you register multiple Starbucks gift cards and will let you pay for purchases using your mobile phone at participating Starbucks (including ones in Target stores).  You should keep the cards as a back up since not all stores will let you pay with your card.  I still have to try this out.  I wonder if airports Starbucks will let you pay with your phone.  If you lose the cards, you can report it is stolen and protect your balance (if it's registered - so even if you don't use the app, it's a good idea to register cards to protect them).  You also earn "stars" when you pay with gift cards and after earning 15 stars, you get a free drink.

2.  Jo-Ann App: I just found out about this application yesterday when I was at the store wishing I'd remembered my coupons that came in the mail.  I downloaded this app and was able to use the coupons through it.  (You can also present coupons sent to you by e-mail.)

Do you have any other apps to recommend?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Car Seats 101

Car seats were completely a mystery to me until today.  This morning I met with a "child passenger safety consultant" from Children's Hospital.  I thought it would be a quick 15 minute appointment, but it ended up taking almost an hour to go through the safety checklist.  Here are the major things I learned.

1.  Car seats are HUGE and need a lot of space:  The most important advice I'd have for new parents is to go to Babies r Us or another store where they let you try out car seats to make sure they fit in your car!  I realized during installation, just how little space there is in the back of a VW golf.  Even with just an infant car seat (our friends loaned us a Graco), which is supposed to be the smallest kind of car seat, I had to move both front seats up.  I'm only 5 feet tall, and my driver's seat position was back to far for the car seat...yikes!

2.  A lot of things can void your car seat's "safety":  I also learned that as popular as the Kiddopotamus snuzzler is, it isn't appropriate for use in a car seat, since it wasn't designed or crash tested by the car seat manufacturers.  However, it is okay to use rolled up blankets on either side of baby's head and a rolled up washcloth between the crotch portion of the harness and the baby's legs because they don't count as "inserts" that could interfere with how the car seat is designed to work. 
Although the owner's manual (from 2007) recommended rolled up towels to help get the correct angle for installation, those are apparently no longer considered safe.  However, you can use a solid pool noodle (foam cylinder) instead.  These can often be provided by the person who checks your car seat installation.

3.  It's important to pull all the straps tightly: Attaching the car seat base with the seat belt, was NOT as simple as clicking the buckle.  I had to make sure the seat belt was set to "lock/ratchet" mode.  Then, I had to hold the car seat down in the center and and tighten the seat belt close to the buckle as much as I could.  Once the baby is in the 5-point harness, you also have to tighten the harness so that it is so snug that you can't pinch any slack straps at their shoulders.  (There's also a hidden button that helps you easily loosen the harness when taking the baby out.) 

4.  Car seats expire: The car seat manufacturers claim the materials they are made of wear out after about 6 years.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Nesting and Crafting

I've been obsessed with getting ready for baby Nam.  For me, this has translated into trolling Craig's list, consignment stores, and my Yahoo groups for baby deals, knitting, sewing, and working on the nursery.  I've also been surfing the web for inspiration/ideas, which are compiled on my tumblelog.  I wanted to compile some of the baby crafting I've done so far. 

One of the first things I made were these taggies:
I hadn't even heard of them until my co-worker got one as a gift, but as soon as I saw it, I decided I could make it, and that it would be a good use of fabric and ribbons I already had.  I used this tutorial from Craft Blog to make them.  Other than the blue whale flannel, I had all the supplies I needed in my stash.

The next two projects I worked on came from purl bee - which has a lot of great craft ideas.   One was a a tutorial my sister found for knit baby booties, the other was one for a quilted playmat.  The playmat gave me a chance to use more fabric in my stash - one was an echino/kokka linen/cotten fabric with a bird  and leaf print and the other is an upholstery weight fabric from Ikea that I couldn't resist.  All I had to buy was the quilting for the middle.  Then I had to invest some time into hand quilting it.
Next up was more knitting, this time a baby bonnet using my favorite yarn - malabrigo.  I found the pattern in a book I borrowed from the library.  I hope baby Nam's head is small enough to fit in it.
 I've been missing the craft get togethers I used to have with friends in Chicago, and my friends Aileen and Erika obliged by having everyone get crafty at our baby shower.  They made me an origami mobile and painted onesies for the baby.
 Here's the finished mobile hanging over our Craig's list maple crib along with paper peony poufs made by my friend Becky.  I used two different sets of mural stick-ons to complete this corner of the nursery.

After a busy end of the school year, summer began and I got back to sewing.  I found an adorable elephant print flannel at Pacific Fabric and Crafts and made some double sided flannel pads - one for the changing pad and the other for the co-sleeper.
I made the mistake of not washing the flannel ahead of time, thinking they would shrink the same amount.  I was wrong - the plain, camel-colored side shrank more.  Oh well, it still works.

Our generous friends lent us a co-sleeper and a bassinet, but they both needed sheets  Rather than buy some, I decided to try making fitted sheets.  It was a bit intimidating, but ended up turning out okay.  I used this tutorial and did some math to modify the size.  I got some cute and inexpensive fabric from Ikea (3 yars for $7.99).  The most difficult part of this project was adding the elastic.  (I wish I'd known about the safety pin trick, but instead I practically ruined brand new circular knitting needle trying to thread the elastic.)  In the end, I didn't even need the elastic in the bassinet sheet and ended up taking it out.  Both sheets were for very shallow mattresses and the elastic made them a bit too tight.  Here's the one for the co-sleeper.
I'm always searching for ways to use the fabric stash I already have, and decided to make some drawstring bags that could be used for diaper changing kits.  I made three for myself and one as a gift.  The only thing I had to get was some twill tape for the drawstring.  I got the idea from another Christine who has a baby and a blog called Brunch.  She provided the link to the tutorial I used.
I stuffed this bag with clothes to bring to the hospital for baby.  I stuffed another one with things I would need at the hospital. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cloth Diapering 101: Is it cheaper?

I wanted to put together what I've learned from friends, other Seattle area moms, the diaper pin and other websites, and a cloth diapering 101 workshop I took this past weekend at Birth and Beyond.

My mom, a pediatrician, encouraged me to try cloth diapering because she noticed that her patients who do it are less likely to develop diaper rash.  Since I'm taking the year off from work, I thought it was worth trying as I would have more time to devote to it and it would save us money - the workshop estimated it would save us approximately $2,000 compared to the cost of disposable diapers. 

I decided to do some math to verify this for myself.  According to what I found online, babies go through approximately 5-6 diapers per day for the first year.  That would be about 2,007 diapers in a year. 

Amazon has some of the lowest prices for diapers, and they cost approximately $0.20/diaper.  That's about $401.50 for a year of diapers - and of course, this is assuming you can get exactly 2,007 diapers in all the right sizes, which probably won't happen.  (And that you get free shipping.)  Since potty training doesn't usually happen until after the age of 2, let's make that $803.00 minimum for 2 years (some websites estimate the cost to be closer to $1200 for 2 years. 

Cloth diapers prices might vary even more than disposable.  It could be as cheap as $6/diaper (for pre-fold + cover bought used) or as much as $25/diaper (for pocket or all-in-ones bought new).  Since they are re-used, you only need roughly 24-36 total cloth diapers which could range in cost from $144 - $900 plus the cost of washing and drying them. 

Diaper Pin has a cost comparison calculator that estimated that it will take me over 7 months of cloth diapering to break even with the cost of disposable and I would save $356.00 after 1 1/2 years of cloth diapering.  Of course, this is if I used the cheapest alternative.  In addition, you can save even more money if you either re-use the diapers for multiple kids or sell them to other moms on Craig's list (which can re-coup you roughly 50% of what you invested if they're in good condition).  In the end, it looks like if you do it smartly, and/or you stick to it for long enough, you will save money cloth diapering.  They can also be really cute compared to disposables :-)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happiest Baby on the Block

I heard a lot about this book so I borrowed it from the library.  Considering how difficult I was as a baby, I am anticipating payback when baby Nam arrives.  Dr. Karp, the author, seems to think that the main source of baby's crying in the first 3 months is due to being born to the world as still developing fetuses and his goal seems to be to re-create the environment that encompassed them in the womb.  He claims that many cultures do not deal with colic as a problem because they constantly hold and carry their babies with them.  Here's a re-cap of Dr. Karp's advice - at least what I remember of it and think would be important to apply.

 Five steps to calming the baby:
1.  Swaddling
2.  Lay baby on side/stomach (when with you) - reverse breast-feeding hold, football hold, over the should hold
3.  Shushing (loud white noise) - hair dryer, vacuum, fan, exhaust fan, running water, radio static, dishwasher, car ride
4.  Swinging - rocking chair, dancing, swings, rhythmic pats, hammock, baby carrier, car rides, vibrating bouncy seat, bouncing on an exercise ball, brisk walks
5.  Sucking

Top Ten Ways to imitate the Uterus
1.  Hold the baby
2.  Dance with the baby (I was apparently a big fan of this as a baby)
3.  Rock the baby
4.  Wrap/swaddle the baby
5.  Sing to the baby or use white noise
6.  Take the baby for a ride in the car
7.  Take the baby for a walk outside
8.  Breastfeed the baby
9.  Give the baby a pacifier
10. Put the baby in a swing

When and how to wean the baby so they can learn how to soothe themselves to sleep:
1.  Wean sucking - between 3-4 months
2.  Wean swinging - between 3-4 months
3.  Wean swaddling - between 3-6 months
4.  Wean shushing - between 3-12 months
(Note: end co-sleeping around 4-5 months)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, marriage, and Dirty Dishes

I just finished reading this book written by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson, two reporters who interviewed economists and couples for a book that has you think about relationships from an economist's point of view.  Since my husband is so rational (and an economics major), I thought this would help me to better understand his point of view.  Here's a re-cap of what I learned:

1.  How to divide chores: It's more efficient to divide up chores (For example, rather than taking turns washing dishes, one person should do this and the other could be in charge of vacuuming.)  To decide, which tasks to take on, decide who is relatively better at each task (also called comparative advantage).  Splitting up tasks this way should give BOTH people in a relationship MORE time for other things.  A 50/50 split isn't always what works - instead, strive for efficiency and meeting the needs of both people in the relationship.  Hopefully, the chores you end up with are once you like doing and/or have an incentive of some kind to do.

2.  Fighting and Loss Aversion: People don't like losing fights, even when it would be in their best interest.  Things to remember about why this happens - rash decision making, choose immediate satisfaction rather than saving for future gains, fear of change.  A good technique to avoid the fight in the first place is to wait 24 hours or so and see if you still think what ever was bugging you is worth starting a fight over - not easy to do for an "emotional-reactor" like me. 

3.  Sex is important: Pew Research Center has found that a happy sexual relationship is the second most important factor to a successful marriage (after faithfulness).  To make sure your having enough sex you should clearly communicate when you're in the mood, get into the habit of doing it regularly, and be open about what you want and when you want it.

4.   Moral Hazard (or taking your marriage for granted): When we get comfortable in our relationship, we take our spouse for granted and can treat them worse than we should.  In order to avoid this, we need incentives to be more responsible in how we treat each other such as investing actively in the relationship, set expectations for each other and work to meet them, and share the "costs" of being in a relationship.

5.  How to get him/her to do what you want: Trust them to do the right thing. (This is a big one that I'm always working on!)  Forgive them when they mess up, which then gives you a get out of jail free card.  Surprise them with thoughtful gestures. 

6.  Trade-offs (Get over it): As a default perfectionist, this is an important one for me to practice - just reminding myself that things can't be perfect and trade-offs have to be made and accepted.  I always want things to be fair and perfect, but real life doesn't work that way, and I have to remember that.  One way to get over what seems like big problems is thinking at the margins.  Rather than looking for one perfect solution, which is my tendency, try to find smaller changes that can be made that can provide a benefit (but at a cost).  Ignore sunk costs (something my husband is always reminding me to do) - which is another way of breaking free of bad habits and perceived status quo.

7.  Asymmetric information (why communication is important): Be very clear in expressing your needs (in a nice, and succinct way).  Of course, for this to happen, the other person needs to be receptive in listening rather than getting defensive and lashing out (another skill to work on!)   

8.  Avoiding laziness and procrastination in your relationship: Find a way to help you commit to being a better partner.  To do this, you need to figure out what incentive will help.

9.  How to sustain a happy marriage: Don't succumb to peer pressure - for me this means not constantly comparing ourselves to other couples, but figure out what makes sense for us instead.  Don't be so confident that you take your marriage for granted.  The book provides a good quiz to help you gauge whether or not you may be overconfident. 

10.  Game theory works for marriage too: Think ahead. (Maybe playing more chess will help me with this one.)  Learn from past experiences.  See things from their perspective.  Rather than only aiming for an ideal outcome, also think about what would be an acceptable outcome.  Making the first move can give you an advantage.  Although the aim is to "win," cooperative strategies often make everyone happier in the end.  Hmmmm...maybe keeping this in mind would help me win Catan more :-)

I realized as I was reading this book that so much of this advice are things that my dear husband has been telling me for years.  So, this post is dedicated to you, oh wise one.  Happy 2nd anniversary!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Children's Consignment Stores in Seattle

Part of my nesting craze has been focused on getting cute clothes for baby Nam.  We are the first in our family to have a baby, so there are no hand me downs from relatives, so consignment stores have been a great resources to build up a wardrobe for her.  I've also had many generous friends who've passed clothes on to me.  Here's a list of consignment stores I've visited in Seattle.

1.   Me'N Moms: I've gone several times to their Ballard location, but they are also in Issaquah and Lynnwood.  This store has the best prices I've found by far for baby clothes.  They are a great place for basics like onesies, footed pajamas, and receiving blankets.  They also have baby gear like strollers (I spotted an orbit there), cribs, vibrating chairs, etc...  In addition, they have a section of new items.  A friend of mine says they sell any baby clothes they are done with here and use the credit to get the larger sizes they need - all without having to spend much money.  What a great form of recycling!

2. Childish Things: A co-worker recommended this Ballard/Greenwood shop to me.  It's prices are higher, but they have a pretty big selection of cute dresses and shoes and other clothing above and beyond onesies for babies/toddlers/kids.  Even though it's consignment, some of the things for sale still have tags on them.  They also have some baby gear for sale and a sizeable and tempting section of new items.  I found a cute Ralph Lauren dress for baby Nam on their clearance rack for 99 cents!

3.  Sela's Small Couture: I found this little Queen Anne shop because I'm addicted to Macrina Bakery which is across the street, and also love Malena's tacos which is next door to it. They had a lot of cute Janie and Jack, Hanna Andersson, and a few adorable Tea and Oilily items.  I bought the most adorable Janie and Jack sweater there with a turtle zipper pull. There's also a small area with a tv and chairs for little ones to sit in as you shop and one rack of new items for sale.

4.  Kids on 45th: This little shop in Wallingford has pretty good prices and selection.  They have some baby gear for sale too.  A bonus is it's close to Molly Moon's and Fainting Goat Gelato!

5. Le Petit Shoppe: This shop is just down the road from University Village in and it's on the pricier side for consignment, but I guess it's because of the neighborhood it's in (Laurelhurst). I found an adorable seemingly new Winnie-the-Pooh footed pjs here.  There is also another consignment shop a couple doors down that was for women and children that had some cute baby items, albeit a smaller selection.

6. Bootyland: This shop in Capitol Hill seems to have more new than used items available.  Their selection of affordable consignment was pretty slim and not really worth a visit if that is all you're looking for.

7.  Majesty: This shop is actually in Redmond, but it was near work so I checked it out.  It was on the pricey side, but was well laid out and had baby gear as well as clothes. They often list items for sale on Craig's list.

8.  Stella + Jack: This is an online consignment shop based in the Seattle area.  They had a sale at a neighborhood coffee shop in Magnolia a few weeks ago.  They had a lot of high end items (Hanna Andersson, Tea, Kate Quinn), but it with prices to match.  It's usually even more expensive if you buy it online since you have to pay for shipping.  However, they will pick up if you're interested in selling to them.

Places yet to be visited:
- Again and a Gain: A shop in West Seattle I've seen them list many baby gear items on Craig's list, but I have yet to make the trek out there.
- Sugarlump: I encountered some of the items from this shop in Madison Valley/Central District area at a boutique sale at Birth and Beyond, but have yet to go to their actual store.  It looks from their website like they also have a lot of new items for sale.

Do you have suggestions for other places worth a visit?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fabric Stores in Seattle

I've been engrossed in making things for baby Nam, who is due at the end of August.  Since I've recently developed pregnancy-related carpal tunnel, I've switched from knitting to sewing.  I was able to use some of my small stash to make some taggies and a play mat, but then needed to find more fabric to continue crafting.  Here's a list of places I've visited in the Seattle area.

1.  Ikea: This is an excellent source for affordable fabric!  The selection is limited, but they   have  great bright and modern prints.  Generally, the prices only run about $7.99 a yard - and that's for upholstery weight!  I used the billy goats on a bridge print below to make a pillow cover.  In the kid's section, they also have kid-specific prints in regular cotton for about $7.99 for 3 yards!  I used a cute black, white, and red print from there to make sheets for the co-sleeper and bassinet and still had plenty leftover to make a taggie, some drawstring bags and a burp cloth.
2.   Stitches: This is a small fabric, sewing, and knitting store in Capitol Hill that also offers classes.  Although it is smaller than most of the other stores, it's selection is so well-edited that I often find what I want here.  They have an especially great selection of the beautiful echino cotton/linen fabrics from the Japanese company Kokka.  Echino fabrics are pricey at around $18/yard, but I haven't found anything cheaper that is the same in terms of weight (in between cotton and upholstery), design, and color.  Stitches has also been a valuable resource for sewing notions, ribbon, felt, etc...  I used the echino fabric below to make a playmat for the baby.
  3.  Pacific Fabrics and Crafts: The Northgate store is fairly close to me and I've also been down to their SODO outlet, which has a bigger selection of remnants.  This store has a HUGE offering of fabrics, but you have to sort through a wide assortment of cheesy quilting prints.  I do find they have a fairly good selection of kid's prints and flannel (solid and printed).  They also have a fairly large selection of notions and ribbon.  I recently found a coupon for them in the Stranger or Seattle Weekly, which came in handy. I bought the cute grey flannel print there to make a changing pad cover.

4.  Nancy's Sewing Basket: I was excited to check out this shop in Queen Anne, but didn't actually get much there.  They did have the same grey animal flannel print above along with several coordinating prints in the same color scheme.  They also have a ribbon room with many fancy ribbon options.  I think it was a bit too high-priced for me overall.  They did have good quality felt there, but it was double regular prices and still wasn't 100% wool.  This is a good place to go for highly specialized items like fancy ribbon, buttons, or fabrics, but I'm not sure it has much to offer for everyday users, unless you live in the neighborhood or have a big pocketbook.  I do like its proximity to Macrina Bakery though!

5.  JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts: Their Ballard store is my go to place for general craft supplies, but I don't actually buy much fabric here.  It is a good place to get sewing supplies/notions, especially when they are having a sale.  They also have a special discount card for teachers!

Up next...I'd like to check out West Seattle Fabric Company.  It's a bit of a trek for me, but I spied some of their selection at the West Seattle street fair and it looked awesome!